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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


Is it fair to pass judgement on pub food? Can it be anything more than a device to nudge along your thirst as the evening wears on?

Yes. I feel justified in reviewing The Last Drop, a basement watering hole under the Moscow News building. It serves up its pub food with effort, offering a brewpub-style menu, hearty with a few flourishes, to complement its extensive offerings from the bar, sustain pool players and revive the denizens of its cigar room. And it does it pretty well.

True, Poslednyaya Kaplya (The Last Drop) was designed with drinkers in mind. The cocktail menu ranges from the super-traditional (Tom Collins) to the wacky (Blue Hawaii).

The wine list and selection of whiskies may disappoint snobs, but then whisky snobs probably know better than to pin their hopes on a casual basement bar. For bourbon drinkers: three kinds plus Jack Daniels.

But the emphasis is on beer, with three Czech beers, three Irish beers, Heineken and Baltika on tap, plus bottled Mexican beers.

We skipped the soups and salads, which we suspected of mayonnaise overkill, and the cold appetizers, composed largely of the local favorites: pickled herring and mushrooms, etc., serving to assist the vodka drinker.

Instead, we went for the hot appetizers, mostly a bill of salt, starch and seafood. Some highlights: breaded chicken with ginger, lobsters boiled in beer, battered white fish and crab croquettes. The lobsters boiled in beer yielded rich, tender meat. The crab croquettes were our best move and so filling I thought they could easily serve as a light after-work supper - although "light" may not be the correct word for a fried ball of mashed potato and crab. ("Look, they use real crab meat," my dining companion said, displaying a bit of shell on his fingers.)

The shrimp, boiled in beer, were a problem. Not because they didn't taste like boiled shrimp should, but because they had unfortunate consequences for the rest of the meal.

As we were industriously shelling our shrimp, our entrees were cooking away in the kitchen ... and we shelled and they cooked, and we were still shelling when they arrived slightly overdone.

Too much time on the grill didn't do the salmon any favors, but it didn't ruin it either. The accompanying champagne sauce compensated for the dryness. The pork medallions were saved by a moist topping of spinach, bacon and cheese. (Note to the management: Mention the cheese on the menu.)

Bad timing is a big kitchen glitch in my book. But in the case of Poslednyaya Kaplya, I'm inclined to forgive.

Poslednyaya Kaplya gets a good review because the staff and management have managed to distinguish the place from the rest of the white-walled basement bars that cater to Moscow's yuppies, and we suffer no lack of them (Vermel, Yama, etc.).

They have gone to the effort of concocting an interesting menu, complete with clever names ? la Petrovich for each dish (Cirrhosis: veal liver in wine. Babe: Schwabian sausages). The food quality is fine. The service is attentive - our waitress even responded to eye signals. The entree prices are competitive, averaging about 150 rubles ($6) for main courses, with a 99 -ruble business lunch on weekdays. Their drink prices are surprisingly low. The atmosphere is nice, with soft blues playing on the stereo and live jazz a couple of nights a week.

We went on a recent weeknight hoping to relax after a rough day at work. "I got what I came looking for," my No. 2 remarked upon leaving. How often do you say that?

Poslednyaya Kaplya, 4 Strastnoi Bulvar (through the arch between cafes Blinchiki and Lakomka). Tel. 202-70-01. Metro: Chekhovskaya. Cash only. Open 24 hours.

- Melissa Akin